In an attempt to reduce widespread piracy in the Netherlands, the government there recently introduced a plan that would make downloading movies and music unlawful. However, this proposal was binned yesterday by a motion from the Dutch parliament due to concerns it would restrict the free flow of information, invade the privacy of citizens and invite copyright trolls. Instead, they encourage the entertainment industry to focus their attention on providing authorized alternatives.
As in many other countries around the world, downloading music and movies is hugely popular in the Netherlands. A massive 30% of the population is said to do so.
Presently, the Dutch see downloading movies and music for personal use as “fair use” and not punishable by law. However, the current government is trying to find a solution to the ever-increasing piracy problem and has proposed a new bill to make it unlawful.
The topic has resulted in a heated political debate over the past several months, and yesterday opponents of the bill won the first battle as the Dutch parliament adopted a motion to keep downloading movies and music for personal use legal.
One of the main concerns of the parliament is that a download ban would go against the free and open Internet, as it restrict the free flow of information. The motion further states that enforcing such a ban via monitoring would invade the privacy of Internet users.
In addition, the parliament is worried that should downloading become unlawful, copyright holders will go after individual downloaders in court. This might result in a similar situation currently seen in countries like the United States and Germany, where hundreds of thousands of Internet subscribers are being sued by copyright trolls out to make a quick buck.
Instead of a download ban, the parliament suggests that the entertainment industry should focus more on offering authorized alternatives. At the moment, it is practically impossible to download high quality copies of recent movies and TV-shows via legal channels in the Netherlands.
The stance of the Dutch parliament is in line with an authoritative report commissioned by the government in 2009. In the report it was estimated that file-sharing has an overall positive effect on the Dutch economy. While it was recognized that the entertainment industry suffers some losses, these don’t outweigh the positive effects of file-sharing.
This report also motivated the Swiss government to keep downloading of music and movies totally legal a few weeks ago.
While the adopted motion is a win for the parties who want to keep downloading for personal use legal, State Secretary for Security and Justice Fred Teeven has already announced that he plans to bring the plan back in an altered form. Whether that will be able to address the current concerns of parliament is yet to be seen.